by Madeline Morrisson – Copy Editor
Deaths by heroin overdose in King County were up 58% from 2013 to 2014, and officials fear that this trend may continue.
Heroin, also known as dope, is an opiate painkiller. It is similar in effects and chemical structure to morphine, and was originally used medically to deal with pain.
Now heroin is more commonly used recreationally for euphoric effects.
This drug is highly addictive, and makes users physically and psychologically dependent. In the United States, heroin is a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no medical uses and has a high potential to be addictive.
Possession, manufacturing, and selling heroin is illegal.
In the brain, heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain, essentially replacing natural opioids. The body will start to produce more opioid receptors as time goes on, meaning that more heroin is needed to get the same high, increasing the risk of overdose.
More people in King County are entering detox programs for heroin then they are for alcohol.
Officials do not have an exact reason for this increase in deaths. They suspect that there may be a stronger and purer heroin coming into the area that addicts are not used to. Additionally, more brown powder heroin is being seen, as opposed to black tar. The deaths have increased in experienced users as well, adding to this theory, as brown powder heroin can be stronger and therefore more dangerous then black tar heroin.
King County is creating a task force to help deal with heroin addiction and the issues stemming from it. The task force will focus on creating short and long term access to treatment, as well as preventing addiction and public awareness. An idea behind this force is that combatting addiction will help with the homelessness problem, which is also an issue in the Seattle area.
There are drugs that can help heroin addicts. Methadone and buprenorphine are two of these drugs. The basic idea behind them is that they fill opioid receptors before heroin can, preventing a high from taking place. However, there are a lot of regulations wrapped around these drugs, making it difficult for doctors to get the licenses to prescribe these drugs and administer them.
A treatment center will be opening on Beacon Hill, a methadone clinic will be opening in Renton, and a clinic will also be opening in Kent as part of efforts to combat addiction.